Law is the rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been described as both an art and a science, but its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. The study of law is a complex endeavor, encompassing many different fields, from philosophy to history to economics to sociology.
The purpose of law is to (1) keep the peace, (2) maintain the status quo, (3) protect minorities against majorities, (4) promote social justice, and (5) provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems serve some of these purposes better than others do; for example, an authoritarian government may keep the peace but it also tends to oppress minorities and political opponents. Likewise, an oligarchy, such as the British monarchy or the former Soviet Union, kept the peace but often oppressed its subjects.
A legal system can be either civil or criminal, and it can be based on common law or a written constitution. The legal system can have a national or international scope, and it can be federal or state-based. The system can have concurrent jurisdiction, which means that two courts share authority to decide cases. Moreover, the system can have statutes, which are laws that are passed by legislatures and signed into law by the executive branch of the government.
Some of the most important fields in law include civil rights, criminal law, property law, tort law, and constitutional law. A legal system can also have special laws, such as environmental law, that are enacted by a specific government body or organization.
Another very broad field of law is public law, which includes all laws affecting the general welfare and the public interest. Public law is essentially a collection of public policies, and it is usually overseen by the legislative branch of the government.
Other major areas of law include administrative law, bankruptcy, aviation, carriage of goods, contract, constitutional law, evidence, family law, and labor law. In addition, there are various specialized fields of law, such as intellectual property and patents, maritime law, medical jurisprudence, and tax law.
The legal profession is an incredibly broad field, and it encompasses such careers as attorneys, paralegals, and legal secretaries. In addition, there are many people who work in the legal industry but do not practice law, such as police officers and prosecutors. The term “law” can also refer to the scientific field of law, which consists of principles and ideas that are empirically verified. However, scientific law is much more flexible than common law, and it can have exceptions, be proven wrong, and evolve over time. The law is a vast and fascinating field, and it has shaped politics, history, culture, and society in numerous ways. Therefore, it is worth studying in more detail. If you are interested in law, it is a good idea to begin by reading some of the following articles: